A little over 10 years ago, Matt Janecek was reading the book “Quiet Strength” by Tony Dungy, and something in that book really grabbed Janecek’s attention.
Dundy wrote about the importance of dads spending time with and really being a positive influence to their children. The book also talked about a program called All Pro Dad, which is the fatherhood program of Family First, a national non-profit organization in Tampa, Florida.
The program was launched in 1997 by Mark Merrill with the help of Dungy, a former NFL head coach who guided the Indianapolis Colts to the 2006 Super Bowl championship. All Pro Dad is built on a football theme and features more than 50 NFL players, coaches and alumni who speak out on the importance of being a good father.
All Pro Dad is utilized at the local level at a number of locations throughout the nation. As Janecek was reading about the program, he started to consider starting an All Pro Dad’s breakfast in Gering.
“I kind of pondered it and prayed about it,” he said. “I finally decided to give it a shot.”
Janecek was a counselor at Northfield Elementary School in Gering when he started the All Pro Dad’s breakfast program there about 10 years ago.
Meeting once a month in the mornings at the school gave Janecek a chance to spend some extra quality time with his oldest son, who was a first-grader at the time, and later his other son, Maddux. The meetings also gave Janecek a chance to help other adults learn how to make an even bigger impact in the lives of their children as well.
“At the first meeting, we had a good turnout,” he said. “We had a lot of people interested in it, so we decided to keep doing it. It’s been a great way for adults to spend more quality time with their kids.”
Janecek ran All Pro Dad at Northfield Elementary for eight years before leaving Gering to take a position at Trail Elementary School in Torrington. He started the All Pro Dad program there, too, and ran it for a couple years before returning to Gering Public Schools this school year. Janecek is in his first year as a counselor at Geil Elementary School.
Janecek was excited to get the program started at Geil.
“There’s a fifth-grader at Geil who was at Northfield a couple years ago, and when he saw me earlier this school year, one of the first things he asked was, ‘Mr. Janecek, are we going to have All Pro Dad again?’ I hadn’t seen that kid for about two years, but he remembered it and was excited about it. At the first meeting we had last month, he and his grandpa were there. That’s an example of the kind of impact this program can make.”
A similar program still continues at Northfield Elementary, called All Pro Parents.
While the program at Geil is called All Pro Dad, the program isn’t just for dads and their children. Anyone who plays a role in a child’s life is welcome to attend.
All Pro Dad meetings are held at 7 a.m. at Geil on the second Tuesday of every month. Participants are asked to bring breakfast with them, or breakfast can be purchased at the cafeteria. The program wraps up at about 7:40 a.m.
“At the last one we had, there were moms and dad and grandmas and grandpas who came, and we’ve even had neighbors of students come,” Janecek said. “I think it’s great – to see so many people getting involved.”
When Janecek was running the program at Northfield, he said the meetings usually drew an average of about 60 people. Sixty-five people attended the first All Pro Dad meeting at Geil. Janecek would like to see that number grow even more.
“Every month I worry that I’m going to be the only one there, just because you never know for sure,” he said. “But people keep coming. As far as building it, it would be great if every family were able to come, but I know that’s tough to do for some families. But I do hope it continues to grow.”
According to information from the All Pro Dad’s program, their mission is to help dads love and lead their family well. Goals include “inspiring others to embrace who you are, give you tenderness of heart, and boldness of character as a dad and husband.” The All Pro Dad’s organization provides guidance and tips in raising kids in a life-giving way.
“What I want to do every month is give the adults and their kids an opportunity to spend some quality time together, have some good discussions, and get some thoughts started so that they can continue those conversations at home,” Janecek said.
Examples of what’s discussed at the meetings are good sportsmanship – for both the students and the adults, doing nice things for people, activities that a father and child can do together, and being positive and showing empathy. At times, the meetings include watching a video about these kinds of topics. Sometimes, curriculum provided by All Pro Dad will be used, and other times there’s a guest speaker at the meeting.
The agenda for the All Pro Dad’s breakfast at Geil follows “SMILE,” which stands for start the meeting, make introductions, introduce a topic, laugh and learn, and end with prizes. Last month, for example, six names were drawn to receive Arizona Diamondbacks hats, and everyone in attendance received Red Sox Nation bracelets.
“There’s a lot of things that we can bring in that can be good lessons for everyone,” Janecek said. “I hope more people take advantage of this and just enjoy the moment with their children.”